On One Hand

July 30, 2009

Protected: Sarah Palin as Poet

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July 29, 2009

Wonkette.com Solves the Healthcare Crisis!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:56 pm
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Here’s a great idea, fresh out of Wonkette’s think-tank wing: The government gets in touch with every $1+ million annual earner in the country and asks each of them, “If the government raised taxes on your $1,000,000 annual income by $9,000 in order to deliver health care to 40 million Americans, would you (a) just pay the taxes (b) stash money in an off-shore vertical trust scheme to avoid paying or (b) literally move to another country to avoid paying this tax increase for health care?” For those who select either (b) or (c) or for some reason both, the government will just take 100% of their money, stun them with cattle-prods, and feed them to the Uighurs.

Source.

The entry the quote was drawn from was actually quite poignant. A New York Times/CBS poll found that most Americans would rather pay down the federal deficit than use federal funds to stimulate the economy. Yet they also opposed every possible way to pay down the deficit: fifty-six percent said they would not be willing to pay more taxes, and fifty-six percent said they would not be willing to cut government services. This is a conundrum that has plagued the the concept of “big government” throughout history; nobody likes the idea if big or inefficient government, but they would rather have big government than lose its services.

July 27, 2009

How to Confront Hate Speech On the Internet

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 4:54 pm
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I recently made the observation that there are a lot of hateful videos on YouTube, that I assumed would have been removed under YouTube’s Terms of Service but were not. So when I saw the video about “how to confront racism” – in our everyday lives – it occurred to me that something is lacking when it comes to confronting more blatant hate speech on the Internet, where words are simultaneously more virulent, and more common.

Transcribed

How to Address Racism in Everyday Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:45 am

I think this video completely sums up my experiences about what has and hasn’t worked when I have these conversations. Plus, the guy is entertaining.

July 26, 2009

Protected: Doesn’t YouTube censor hate speech?

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July 24, 2009

Unions: Compromise on Benefits Tax Exemptions, Make Healthcare Reform Unstoppable

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:39 pm
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I tend to roll my eyes when I hear Republicans use the term “special interest groups” to criticize opponents’ policy proposals. Everybody entity in society, be it a school, church, corporation or museum, and every person, rich or poor, young and old, looks out for his or her own interests – an idea that Republicans support. All political parties are coalitions of interest groups, and the purpose of an election is to determine whose interests are shared by a greater number of people and become priority. So for, say, Barack Obama to push a policy favorable to his constituents is exactly what he was elected to do, not a “special interest” push.

But I’ll step out on a bit more of a limb, politically, to say that the things most of us would consider “special interest” are conservative or Republican causes. The American Medical Association, for example – a lobbyist group of around a quarter of physicians supporting policies that make healthcare a more lucrative profession or to protect doctors from lawsuits – is a “special interest.” Oil companies are “special interests.” Wealthy taxpayers and their lobbies constitute a “special interest” group. Democrats campaign more on the common good, especially where it runs contrary to a powerful special interest group.

Labor unions, which Republicans are most often talking about when they use the “special interest” buzzword, are almost the opposite of special. They represent very broad and general interests, of workers – and the vast majority of people are some kind of worker even if they are not in a union. Unions support ideas that everybody working full-time should earn enough to be off welfare and be free of health and safety hazards in the workplace. Unions generally lobby for worker protections that extend beyond the reach of card-carrying members to all workers regardless of industry.

But when it comes to compromise on issues that could make healthcare reform happen, unions could do some good with a willingness to step out on a limb. It comes to a head when we talk about the possibility of taxing healthcare benefits – something that has a terrible ring to it – but could solve a lot of problems, but for the fact that it benefits union workers more often than non-union workers of similar income. Unions are in complete support of the idea of universal healthcare, but are oppose calling for a compromise that could make the endeavor more politically and practically feasible.

A tax exemption for employer-paid health insurance benefits sounds like a great idea, because having health insurance is a positive thing so we tend to believe it should go untaxed. What the exemption means is that you do not pay income tax on the portion of your income that is designated as the healthcare component of your benefits package; it is essentially an untaxed income. If you make $70 thousand dollars a year and an additional $5 thousand in health insurance for you and your family, your salary is essentially $75 thousand a year, but you don’t pay taxes on the last $5 thousand. It’s a sweet deal for employees, so employers who want to keep their workers happy participate in the system.

Unions also love the tax exemption. One of the main purposes of a labor union is to get its employees good benefits, so a very large number of union members have them. Union members tend to be on the middle to lower end of the income spectrum, so those benefits packages end up being a large percentage of their incomes. If you are a teacher making $28 thousand a year and receive $5 thousand in health benefits, that means that almost twenty percent of your salary is untaxed, which is a big help because basic healthcare costs the same for you as it does for a rich person but you have less income to pay it.

The ultimate reason the policy is sustainable is that more than half of Americans get health insurance either through their own workplaces or through the workplaces of someone in their families. Those who get benefits are also stable, employed Americans and are more likely to vote, and elected officials benefit from supporting policies that make their constituents happy.

But there are some conceptual problems with this kind of system, because it allows inequalities to materialize in the tax code. High-income people tend to get very expensive benefits packages, which turn into big chunks of untaxed income. If you are a middle or low-income person without benefits through work, you pay the full price of income tax on your earnings. If you choose to buy health insurance on your own you do so without the tax exemption on the portion of your income you’ll use to pay for your health insurance.

Economic conservatives and libertarians often side against the labor unions on this issue, and with taxing benefits. Its unusual for those camps to support what is essentially a tax increase, but they are groups who put a high priority on making the tax system consistent and also intensely resent the clout labor unions have in politics.

The biggest political opposition to an effective healthcare reform package – including a public option – is focused on the price tag of the reform proposals, which have been estimated to cost anywhere from billions to a trillion dollars over ten years. Reform proponents argue that inefficiencies that get wrung out of the system with reform ultimately save more money than they cost, but those savings are less certain than the plan’s known expenditures, and conservatives along with much of the public are reluctant to sign up for the deal when the federal budget is already so far in the red.

Much of the reform price tag could be paid off if the health benefits tax exemption is at least partially repealed. Making individual health insurance plans tax-deductible would be enough to equalize the ethical concerns with equality between benefits-paid workers and individual insurance purchasers, but that fails to solve the budget crisis that comes with healthcare reform. The funding supplied by taxing benefits is a juicy, tempting option, and justifiable because it would likely make healthcare better and save money for the very people who would have to pay up. But Barack Obama opposed taxing health benefits during his presidential campaign and that is partially due to his support of – and ongoing need for support from – labor unions.

Ironically, it is more in line with conservative philosophy for labor unions to do what is directly in the interest of their own members rather than wade into ideological ambitions of reforming the entire U.S. economy. In other words, a union organizer with a conservative mindset would care about keeping his workers’ health benefits untaxed rather than worry about widespread social implications on all workers. Libertarians expect the U.S. government to look out for American citizens first and to not go galavanting for democracy and freedom around the world, and they want the government to protect property rights and enforce contracts rather than try to make the society equal or reduce disparities of wealth. They want corporations to worry about their stockholders and do not think they are morally obligated to care for their employees – in other words, the philosophy holds that entities are responsible to a designated group of constituents and not responsible to anyone outside that group.

Yet in the real world it is when labor unions – coalitions of workers who bargain collectively against employers – seek to protect their own workers first that they get most criticism from political conservatives, who call them “special interest groups.”

I am not a conservative, and I see concern for everyone to be a virtue rather than a vice. And in this case, I think that unions may be making a mistake by taking a major bargaining chip off the table in the fight for healthcare reform.

I also worked full-time for a labor union last summer and fall, leading up to the 2008 election, doing grassroots political work by registering and talking to voters. The union was the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, the largest labor union on the country with an emphasis on healthcare workers and janitors. The union cared about its own workers, of course, but the ideology we discussed in the workplace was to promote policies that benefit all workers, not just SEIU employees, and universal healthcare was the main talking point. Individual members and some union organizers might have been involved for their own sake. But the office managers were young college graduates, often with advanced degrees, who were politically involved before they became union organizers and wanted to use their resources to benefit all workers who do what SEIU members did. The higher you went up in management, the more holistic the approach to workers’ rights was. We talked about racial equality, living wages and improving public education in struggling communities. Nothing I learned there would indicate that we weren’t concerned with non-SEIU members.

I would argue that union workers see a net benefit with a public health insurance option even if it means their health benefits are taxed as income. I also think they benefit from an expedient process that doesn’t hurt Barack Obama and Democrats with excessive hand-wringing. I’d also make the judgement call that a policy reversal from them – which is unlikely, but we’re working in the hypothetical here – would be a sufficient excuse for President Obama to sign a healthcare bill containing a change in the tax exemption (that, remember, he campaigned against) without looking like a flip-flopper, especially if he was not the one who wrote the legislation into the bill and signed it as a “compromise.”

This is one case where labor unions are a bit too much of a special interest group for my liking. Taxing healthcare benefits sounds awful, but remember that they are paying for a program that allows all people to pay less for health insurance if they have low incomes. The ultimate goal is to prevent people from going bankrupt when they get sick and to save lives, with the added benefit of reducing healthcare costs.

Here are a few ways to tax benefits while preventing some of the downsides that unions are worried about:

Tax health benefits as income, but at a consistent lower rate than regular income tax. This would leave in place the incentive for employers to purchase health insurance for their employees, but help solve the inequality problem and provide funding for a federal plan low-income people to access health insurance.

Tax health benefits only after a certain price, and on a progressive scale. If your benefits package is worth less than, say, $3 thousand a year, you pay zero taxes on that income. If your plan is more expensive, you pay zero taxes on the first $3 thousand, ten percent until it reaches $5 thousand, and twenty percent on anything after that. This seems to me to be the version labor unions are most likely to support – but a downside is that workers who would rather not have health insurance at all (an all-around bad idea, for everyone) would resent having to pay a tax on income they’d rather see in cash but then spend on more entertaining things.

Tax health benefits as regular income but give everyone who has health insurance a $2 thousand tax deduction to pay for part of it. This means that people who purchase their own health insurance see the exact same benefit as those who get their insurance through work; the government will essentially pay for the first $2 thousand of your benefit, and you pay everything after that. It also means that the tax burden is very light, or even non-existent, on those with small or average sized benefits packages. Of course health insurance costs more than $2 thousand a year so the system may need additional incentives to make it affordable for people who don’t get it through work – which is what the healthcare reform bill will be designed to do – and the tax break could get so expensive that it outprices the gain of taxing benefits in the first place.

July 20, 2009

What Makes Humans Distinct from Animals?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:29 am
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My fifth grade teacher once told our class that the difference between humans and animals was an elusive thing called “reason.” When you hit a dog, she argued, the dog would yelp in pain and run away but know nothing beyond what it shows in its behavior. The human would ask “why?” and try to prevent itself from being hit in the future.

She probably wasn’t much of a pet person, because anyone who has a dog knows they are capable of becoming highly trained and social, and do indeed seek to avoid punishment. But another pertinent bit of information is that my teacher was an evangelical Christian, who believed that humans have souls and animals do not. And if our soul, as according to Judeo-Christian thought, contains the consciousnesss, it would indeed be logical to conclude that animals are unconscious. In that worldview, God made man and animals through two distinct acts, and that is how human societies viewed animals for thousands of years of history before Darwin.

We now know that humans are an animal species. Put a ten year old girl, a male Labrador retriever, and a pear tree in a row. All three are life forms, and Judeo-Christian philosophy would say that the human is distinct and the dog and the pear tree are similar as un-souled living things. Science would inform us otherwise, insisting that when compared to the plant, the human and the dog are very, very much alike.

Science also tells us that the center of consciousness is the brain, which our young girl and Labrador share. They not only both have brains, but very similar brains, with an enlarged, two-hemisphere cerebrum and a smaller cerebellum, a visual cortex in the rear a memory center in the in the middle. A young girl and a dog show similar instinctive ways of communicating pleasure and pain through sounds and gestures, and will entertain complex social behaviors. They both develop emotional bonds with peers and have the capability of bonding across species. They not only like to be around others, but will show a preference for certain individuals whom they can recognize, form communities, and display anxiety and sadness when they are separated from those they love. Their neurotransmitters follow the same pathways – dogs respond to the same antidepressant medications that humans do, and in the same way.

Science also tells us that the same act of creation generated dogs and humans in one fell swoop. For billions of years of Earth’s history, the species that would eventually branch into dogs and humans was the exact same lineage and creature. All placental mammals – a family that ranges from fruit bats to Wooly Mammoths – shared a common ancestor 125 million of years ago, and the order Carnivora (which contains dogs) and Primates have a common ancestor much than that. Humans and any other mammal that gives live birth has been distinct for less than 5 percent of the timeline of life on Earth.

It becomes necessary to say, not “what makes humans distinct from animals?” but rather, what makes animal species distinct from each other? A species is formally defined as a population of organisms that will not reproduce sexually with other populations in the wild, but the boundaries blur. Wolves and coyotes sometimes cross-breed in the wild, horses and donkeys breed to make mules and scientists have often found stray genetic material from one species in another species. 30,000 years ago, humans and Neanderthals may have been two distinct species that occasionally produced hybrids. There were other “species” or subspecies of human that were less likely to mate with humans, and many of them co-existed with Homo sapiens. So which of these were humans, and which were animals? It also turns out than Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes (chimps) have more in common with each other than chimpanzees have with their next closest relative, gorillas, and there is evidence that a chimpanzee ancestor once had larger brains and then regressed for some reason. So a chimpanzee or another great ape might ask, instead, “what makes apes (including humans) distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom?”

There are obviously a few things that human beings can do that animals can’t, but any attempt to label a thought process unique to humans is going to be an attempt to socially construct a concept that has no basis in material reality. Humans can do things because their thinking abilities may work better: they communicate and share information extensively, and while animals are less prolific in their pedagogy, it would be unfair to say they don’t learn or teach each other at all. The ability to communicate through writing or pictures is probably the best example of a human-unique skill, and maybe the only near-universal (through time as well as space) human activity that no animal species besides Homo sapiens does. But we know that a list of species show the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, we know that a list of species have a sense of “object permanence” and understand that things continue to exist even when they can’t see them, we know that a list of species has the ability to understand speech, use sign language, solve puzzles, learn from others, maintain social groups and even solve math problems.

The 1960s-80s were a time when writers and thinkers were working hard to define human against nonhuman minds, or rather, the historic beginning and the end of human consciousness. Science Fiction literature and film mediated the conversation. The Planet of the Apes featured chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans that develop complex speech and societies while humans regressed to the wilderness, and 2001: A Space Odyssey opens with a philosophical scene, a pack of furry apes beating another to death; in that portrayal, the distinguishing moment that made man out of animals was the ability to murder for reasons other than self-defense or food. (We now recognize that many animal species do this.) That was a two-fronted discussion, as robots and thinking computers constituted another form of intelligence that could someday achieve human individuality; Blade Runner was heavy into the conversation as “replicants,” thinking robots that were illegal on Earth, went on a murdering spree against humans. The list would go on, but there is no doubt that the popularization of the theory of evolution sparked many of the questions.

And as consistent with the theory of evolution – where species arise gradually rather than suddenly – we find that animal thinking abilities lie on a continuum rather distinct contrasts of human versus nonhuman. Misconceptions about animal abilities are constantly being proven wrong, as more and more species are added to the lists of things we thought only humans did. Prarie dogs have their own languages, with different kinds of barks that mean different things and vocabularies that differ community to community. A recent study found that simple aquarium fish are more likely to thrive in groups than alone. Dolphins have been observed teaching their young how to use sponges to protect their snouts while they dig through the sea floor. When dogs playfully wrestle with each other, bigger individuals will handicap themselves to compensate for larger size or better health, have gestures to apologize for accidentally hurting another dog, and will ostracize individuals who bully or break those rules. Finally, Alex, a famous African gray parrot who died in 2007, could distinguish materials from each other, count and categorize them by substance or color and communicate that knowledge to his human trainer.

Some critics look at especially talented animals and argue that wishful thinking on the part of scientists leads to exaggeration of their senses or abilities. But from a conceptual standpoint – admitting it is not a “human” soul, but brain matter that produces intelligence, and human beings and animals share that – we should expect to find emotionality and profound abilities in animals. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, “wishful thinking” would downplay and reduce animal intelligence because of the inconvenience implied in thinking of them as conscious. We have been culturally conditioned through religion and by necessity to believe they do not suffer when they are slaughtered or abused or sacrificed on an altar, and we profit from using them in ways that would be difficult if we thought of them as sentient. Human societies have historically downplayed the intelligence and abilities even of other groups of humans they encountered and thought of as “uncivilized,” so have shown a track record of not seeing what is there when it benefits them. Furthermore, we know people judge each others’ intelligence by vocabulary, so the take-away impression of an animal who cannot talk would be that it is less intelligent though in reality it simply lacks the anatomy and wiring for speech.

But even this thought process may represent an anthropomorphized, and culturally limited, way of looking at the issue. Because as much as animals show typically “human” traits, we know that humans show animal traits too. We know that we use biological criteria in sexual selection and respond to pheremones, and we know that many human behaviors, such as walking and picking up language, are genetically-driven behaviors that children will develop even when you don’t teach them. And when we talk about simians or canines having social groups that resemble human families, wouldn’t it be more valid to say that human social groups resemble those of monkeys and wolves? Their species were, after all, around first.

While nonhuman animals do show “reasoning” skills, it might be more accurate to say that animals do not have http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic – reasoning that can remain confined within a set of agreed-upon rules. But that is simply an order of magnitude, not a distinct behavior that humans have and others don’t; when reasoning skills get advanced enough, and when we are given an education to boost, we learn how to use logic. We have no way of knowing if birds and cats philosophize, and inasmuch as animals do teach, we know they don’t teach things like chemistry and literature. Many species may, however, may measure up better against prehistoric humans than we normally care to admit.

July 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are is Either Awesome or Ruins my Childhood

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:34 pm
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Where the Wild Things Are, a forthcoming 2009 film written by filmmaker Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers, faces expectations higher than the moon.

There are three storybooks that define my earliest memories: Green Eggs and Ham, The Little Engine that Could and Where the Wild Things Are.

Where the Wild Things Are is the only one even vaguely resonant with me today. Green Eggs and Ham is too bizarre, and reads too much like a grammar lesson to be anything but cute, and Dr. Seuss’ styled characters have long been comercialized in freakish CGI movies and ancillary products that destroy their timelessness. The Little Engine that Could is similarly repetitive and sing-songy, and the pencil-thin lines of its memory have become too crossed with the cheezy stories about Thomas the Tank Engine.

But Where the Wild Things Are is, as my grandma always called me, something else. The protagonist in the book is mischievous and misunderstood – I can grasp that feeling even to this day. There is a celebration of deviance and our deepest, uncivilized desires – desires that struggled with conventions and professionalism, desires that were tortured to sit through boring lessons in church and school, desires to explore the world alone, to stick our hands in the mud, to imagine ourselves befriended to terrible beasts part fairytale legend, part wild animal and part made of the very dirt and clay that our mothers scrubbed off our cheeks with their spit.

Maurice Sendak, born of Jewish Polish immigrants in Brooklyn on the eve of the Great Depression, wrote the story in 1964, when my parents were children. President Obama read the story to a group of kids at the White House during a children’s egg hunt there this spring, and told them it was one of his favorite childhood stories. I was born in 1985 and my parents read it to me then, so there are a lot of people out there who rank the story among their fondest childhood memories and are eagerly awaiting this movie.

There’s a thing that happens when you see a reflection of your youngest self, set to upbeat music and wrought with the message that something both innocent and soulful is happening in this moment. I was practically in tears watching the trailer, which perfectly fit what I remember Where the Wild Things Are being about.

The trailer’s soundtrack lyrics reveal the intended audience: “children don’t grow up / our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.” Kids don’t spend their lives thinking of poetic relationships between adulthood and childhood; adults do that when they look back over their lives. I think this film will be geared towards adults who read the book as children, or more specifically, to the never-grownup children that read the book 20 or more years ago.

Every single aspect of that trailer is brilliant, from its immodest declarations of what is in all our hearts, to its repeated return to the image of running, something that decorated our early years along with our persistent, latent desire to flee all the soul-killing routines and boundaries that have become our lives since then.

Also brilliant is the choice to not have any dialog from human characters in the trailer. That too evokes memory, because visual images stick around longer than words. It also means there is less there to weigh down the impact.

One of my theories about literature draws from something all good writers know about their craft: less is more. That’s because a vague, quick impression gives a reader a sense of perfection as a Platonic form. Saying “imagine the most terrific, powerful spaceship!” leads to a sense of something more exciting than “a truck-sized gray cylinder with ninteen-foot wings and large round engines.” Anything you make more specific with your words is almost guaranteed to be less compelling than the unfulfilled expectation. A monster is always more terrifying hidden in shadows than it is when it steps out into visibility. That’s not to say description is bad, but it is very difficult to do it right if you want a sentence to be universally evocative. In literature, words more often chip the spectacular down to something tangible than build it up.

Similarly, a silent character is always more compelling. In her or him we instill all our own inarticulable thoughts and conflicts. When the character speaks, we are made aware of how we wouldn’t put it quite that way, and become less and less engaged if she or he continues to get wordy.

So all of our wildest dreams for What the Wild Things Are are left possible by that trailer. The first bit of dialog in the movie will rule out a million directions the film could take, and as each minute ticks by, a thousand more viewers will say to themselves, “hey, that’s not what I thought the book was about!”

It could be magnificent, if it keeps to the limits of what it is capable of and leaves some things delightfully vague. The writers and producers must strike a careful balance between saying enough and saying too much, and if they try too hard to make the film contain the whole universe – hope, fear, and adventure, as the trailer indicates – it will stop being about those things.

And this is a case in which the stakes are very high. Even the president is watching. It must awe us the way we were awed as children, but we approach it with the cynicism of adults. This isn’t an epic novel we read when we were twelve, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, which can win us over with special effects because the dialog is predetermined by a lengthy novel. This is bedtime storytime, when we are most vulnerable. It is the first five years of our lives and the last five minutes before we fell asleep. And finally, it is a feature-length film based on ten pages of text and illustrations.

Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, I expect nothing less than awe and wonder at this movie. And if you ruin this story for me – if you ruin this part of my life – I will hunt you down.

July 14, 2009

Second-Wave Queerism: A Renewed LGBT Movement

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 7:28 pm

The LGBT community, and our push for legal equality and social tolerance has gone stale. It’s time to turn our eyes inward now.

We are being torn apart by consumerism, body image crises, ageism, negativity and segregation. In a mainstream society that is much easier for LGBT people to be a part of (but not too easy), LGBT people with more wealth or status keep one foot in and one foot out.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard white self-identified gay men qualify their association with the “community” by expressing distaste for most of its members, accusing them of promiscuity or “shallowness.” The catch phrase is “I’m gay, but… I’m not into the scene, because…” We overwhelmingly show disdain for our peers’ lifestyles; but if eight in ten of us are saying we are not fully part of the community because we think we can do better, then what is the “community?” What is are we? Can anything we pour such negativity into survive and be beneficial to us?

Do we really think everyone around us is wrong, or are we projecting our own discomfort with being queer onto our peers, who we view as competitors or burdens to ourselves?

Similarly, we’re wrenched into body image disorders, as gay men spend more time in the gym than any other demographic group – and we still don’t like what we see in the mirror. Men want to be more “masculine.” Women are underrepresented in leadership roles. Men want to look better and have better bodies. Women socialize in different circles. Men want to seem well-off. People of color are in their own groups separate from the rest of the community, pushed out by lack of awareness of their issues. There is much bitterness to go around. The LGBT media are sick with affluenza.

What if we forgot all that and started over?

The gay movement began on the streets. In 1969, a bunch of transvestites and gay men in the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village in New York City, fought back when cops tried to bust the place for serving homosexuals – which was illegal at the time. The Stonewall Inn patrons lashed out, and for three days Christopher Street was in chaos while the cops tried in vain to arrest everyone or at least get them under control. More gay people just kept pouring out of the woodworks. The event was called the Stonewall Riots and those three nights before the rioters and police called a truce are credited with drawing the nation’s eye and giving LGBT people their first real taste of social power.

The patrons of Stonewall were poor, flamboyant, and gritty. They didn’t lift weights or picture themselves in magazines with rippled abdominals and bulging pecs. They didn’t go on “all-gay cruises” advertised in fliers by airbrushed models with perfect, glistening teeth. They didn’t look like cosmopolitan versions of G.I. Joe. It was a scene laden with drugs, with hustlers, with estrangement from families and it found leadership in obscure and indirect voices of hope: rumoredly gay-friendly Hollywood actresses and literature from gay artists and poets who were half-closeted despite having subliminially homoerotic work.

The Stonewall rioters lived in the ghetto, and were locked out of institutions of power or high-paying jobs. And while many gay men in that day led closeted double-lives, few of the ones who fought back in Stonewall had that luxury. They got taunted and harassed all the time. So pushed for change in spontaneous public marches and acts of defiance like the White Night riots in San Francisco when Harvey Milk’s assassin was given a pathetically light sentence for the murder of a gay leader.

Over time we improved ourselves. We merged with the feminist movement and with lesbian groups, we became aware of bisexuality, and we learned to welcome transgendered people too. We formed formal organizations to push for rights and built ourselves an extensive media with everything from gay-themed newspapers to our very own cable channel. We opened up frank public discussions on sex and sexual safety.

But what, of substance, has the LGBT movement added to itself since 1990? Besides a few more letters on the acronym. That was 20 years ago, remember, and at the peak of the AIDS crisis, when collective stress, again, made community solidarity high. Sine then we’ve gotten new laws, and we’ve legalized same-sex marriage in several states, which is an outward change rather than an inward one.

We live in a time of re-thought black civil rights and third-wave feminism – it’s time for a new wave of queer social thought.

I want a distinctly new movement, that is based on the most modern academic thinking and the most progressive social realities. I want to be willing to examine white power in the gay community. I want to be willing to examine sexism in the gay community. I want to be willing to make people living with HIV/AIDS an important component of our community. I want to talk about body image and talk about drugs.

Our key principles should be:

A focus on diversity, and building allies between the LGBT community and other disenfranchised groups.

A focus on intersectionality, and on LGBT people of different cultures and races.

To value the diversity of lifestyle choices in the community – ranging from committed, monogamous relationships to polyamory. When we defend gay rights, we first worry about human rights (housing and employment nondiscrimination, adoption, hate crimes protection) before their behavioral rights (building monogamous relationships or not building monogamous relationships), though all are important.

Positive attitudes towards the gay community itself, and towards the range of values, personalities and lifestyles therein.

Awareness of poverty, within the LGBT community and outside it.

An embrace of feminism and women’s issues.

Awareness of HIV/AIDS and the need for better healthcare policies.

Awareness of body image issues, and the fact that gays and lesbians alike go through many of the same body image crises that straight women go through worrying about weight.

A focus on street-level activism! We want the general public to see that there’s a movement going on, with grassroots support rather than impetus from big organizations like the Human Rights Campaign that are often caught up in wealthy and powerful circles. We are not here to create new institutions of power for LGBT people, we are here to bring down institutions of power or make them more egalitarian.

So what’s the way to achieve that? A blog? A magazine? A website? A march? A rally? Regular meetings at a Downtown cafe?

What do you think about all this?

Onion News Network: New Poll Allows Pundits to Pander in Real Time!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 5:01 pm
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New Live Poll Allows Pundits To Pander To Viewers In Real Time

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